Off Topic (Bob Krech)

I was planning on writing something aligned with the December theme and then the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary happened today. I am having trouble thinking about anything else.

I've been teaching in elementary schools for a long time. I've been doing lock-down drills with kids for a few years now and I work in a school district where everyone is buzzed in through the front door, all other doors are always locked, we wear photo ID's, and we have five or six drill variations for various shooter situations. And this is the suburbs. Like Sandy Hook. We are, I guess, for all intents and purposes, as prepared for this as you reasonably can be. Still, I almost couldn't take it in. This is such a senseless shocking tragedy. I found myself welling up as I drove home from work, listening to the details of the horrible events. My prayers and thoughts are with them and all over the map as well.

One of the things that came to mind was a story I heard from an editor about Chris Crutcher, the award-winning YA author of books like Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes and Whale Talk. I don't know if it's true or not, but according to the editor, Crutcher had submitted a manuscript that was about to be published when Columbine happened. His book happened to be about a shooting at a high school. He called the editor and asked her to please throw his manuscript in the trash. I don't believe he has revisited the topic.

I don't know how I feel about that. I don't know what Crutcher's thoughts were (or if the editor's story is actually true). I would guess he most likely did not want to be seen as possibly profiting from the events, especially because of the timing. It is a hard call to decide when and how it is appropriate to write about tragedy for young readers and even what is appropriate to begin with. There is also the question of is it okay to deal with these real-life events in fictional contexts or does it have to remain as a non-fiction piece. I've struggled with these questions with at least one of my books. None of it is easy, particularly when kids are involved in the content or as readers. They are a special audience.

My apologies for going off-topic. All best wishes for a peaceful, safe, blessed holiday season.


  1. Thank you, Bob, for such an insightful post. So much to think about - truly and deeply. My heart and prayers are with the families of those we have lost.

  2. Addressing such important topics is most definitely a delicate balancing act. And I've been equally disturbed by the news...I know what you mean by scattered thoughts. Here's to a peaceful and safe holiday to you, too, Bob.

  3. The whole world stopped for me that day. It's enough.


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